Arsenal 2-0 Juventus: Remembering one of Highbury’s finest European nights
- Credit: PA
On March 28, 2006, Arsenal beat Juventus 2-0 in the first-leg of their UEFA Champions League quarter-final tie. The game has gone down as one of the finest European nights at Highbury, and this is how it all happened.
Having stunned Real Madrid’s Galacticos with a 1-0 win at the Bernabéu thanks to a sublime Thierry Henry goal, and then ground out a 0-0 draw in north London to advance to the last-eight, Arsene Wenger’s side were given another huge test in the form a star-studded Juve side.
The tie also provided a battle within the war as ex-Arsenal captain Patrick Vieira returned to Highbury for the first time since his move to the Old Lady the previous summer. Understandbly, much of the pre-match focus was on his return.
The Gunners had been struggling on the domestic front without their talismanic leader as they battled rivals Tottenham for a top four spot in the Premier League, but a young Spanaird was emerging as his replacement.
Cesc Fabregas couldn’t have been built in a more different mould than Vieira. The Frenchman was tall and powerful while the 18-year-old was diminutive and vet much in the Spanish style that became increasingly prevelant as the decade went on.
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But, on that night at Highbury, Fabregas brought Vieira down to size with a dominant display. Years later, Vieira would meet Fabregas and joke: “This is the kid who made me leave Arsenal.”
Despite lining up against the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Lillian Thuram, Fabio Cannavaro, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and David Trezeguet, the Gunners were unphased as they played with verve and vigour to run the Old Lady ragged.
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The hosts controlled the game and took a deserved lead just five minutes before half-time as Robert Pires pinched the ball from Vieira deep in the Juve half and found Thierry Henry.
He fed Fabregas who had darted into the space vacated by his skipper, touching the ball away from Thuram inside the D and stroking the ball into the corner of the net. Arsenal had lift off at Highbury.
They may have been in front, but the Gunners knew a second goal would be crucial ahead of the second leg in Turin.
It came with just over 20 minutes to go as Fabregas latched onto Alexander Hleb’s pass and the 18-year-old squared for Henry to turn the ball home and round off a superb night in N5.
The clean sheet made it seven on the bounce, equalling the Champions League record and one which they would go on to break.
A 0-0 draw in Italy put Wenger’s men in the semi-final where they beat Villarreal 1-0 at home before Jens Lehmann’s heroic penalty save in Spain sent them to Paris and the final against Barcelona.
We all unfortunately know what happened next.
The night of March 28, 2006 will go down as one of the finest in Arsenal history and one that will be remembered for many years to come. Oh how Gooners long for one of those nights again.